Real Answers from Real Pilots

Is age 40 to old to start?



Please take a look at the FAQ section as it deals with your age related question.

Just an FYI, to fly in the US you will need to either be a US citizen or US permanent legal resident.


(Hayley Ng) #25

Thank you ,Chris !
Thank also for the info of residency, honestly i’m still in the phase of making up my mind to make a career switch.I’d love to fly anywhere that it’s possible.


(Antoine) #26

Hi Hayley,

This forum is mostly centered around Pilot careers in the US. Since you are based in Italy, I would recommend other forums such as I am originally from Europe myself and know a few people who were in their late 20s / early 30s with Engineering backgrounds who made their way into the cockpit fairly recently. Times were tough just a few years ago but things have been improving dramatically. You should however be ready to consider the possibility of having to relocate to other countries in Europe as some of the carriers may not have bases in Italy, not too mention training which will have to be done in an ATO (Approved Training Organization) most likely away from home.

Best of luck,

(Phill M) #27

Hi Adam,

Let me get this straight. You started flight school (with no previous flying experience) at age 39? And now you fly for Hawaiian? That is amazing.

I’m 37, I don’t know if I’m having a mid-life crisis or what, but I’ve really got a strong desire to be a pilot. For the first time I feel like I found something I’d love to do.

Anyways I have a business degree from the UW. But no flight training. I was wondering if I was way to late, but from your previous post, it doesn’t seem like it.



I actually got my Private licenses back in my 20’s but never did anything with it. I started with ATP when I was 39 but hadn’t flown in 10years and barely had the required 80hrs. So while it was like I had no experience I did have some albeit minimal.

Check the FAQ section as we discuss this further but the short answer is no you’re not too old.


(Simon) #29

Adding my own questions and situation to this great thread…

I have read a lot of the great information about mid-life career transitions, and am planning my own with the following considerations.

I am 41 and currently work for Amazon with a good 6 figure salary, and all things going well should be able to pay off my mortgage and fully pay for flight program in 2020/2021 due to some great stock incentives. I have been working for the company for 2 years, before that I was a career Officer with the British Army for 17 years (Infantry, not Air Corps!) so bags of leadership experience, maturity and life skills. I live in ATL now with a Green Card, eligible for citizenship next year - my wife and kids are US citizens. ATP have 3 sites here, with PDK being closest to me.

My thoughts are take 5 years or so in Corporate life to get financially solvent (2016 to 2021) then transition to a job I can love more for my remaining work life - back to a demanding but professionally rewarding role like the military. That would see me realistically 45-46 going to a Regional but financially fairly sound.

I am married with 2 young girls (6 & 8) so have to consider finances for the family if I take 2 years ATP Program. Luckily I have a small military pension and my wife works as a teacher but the wage drop would be considerable. We don’t mind this as we are thinking long term quality of life and personal achievement - you only live once after all.

I am thinking that I should use a non-ATP flight school in 2019 to gain my PPL and build hours through 2020 to match the accelerated entry requirement.

Any advice on local schools (Lanier Flight Center look promising), total post PPL hours required and other pre-course that would be truly valuable if I have 24 months to prepare?

Grateful for any other critique of the plan also and of course reinforcement that a 45 year old British Army veteran has a snowballs chance in hell of a rewarding aviation career in the US!



Your call and I understand your desire to be set financially prior BUT if I were 41 and wanted to be a pilot I wouldn’t put it off. Things are literally the best they’ve ever been in this industry and while they’re forecast to continue, the fact is you never know for certain. SENIORITY IS EVERYTHING and effects every aspect of our lives at the airlines. People within the same class can have very different careers simply because they’re either on the right or wrong side of one number.

Your life and your decision but if you want to be an airline pilot NOW is the right time. 5 years from now? Who knows?


(Tory) #31


I just want to point out real quick that you’re in a financial position that most people wish they were in. We read posts every day about applicants that want to start flight training immediately, but they don’t qualify for the loan (with or without a co-signer).

Like Adam said, start now and get your seniority number sooner, or stick with your original plan. Up to you. No one can guarantee that either choice is the right choice, but historically starting sooner rather than later leads to a more comfortable lifestyle in this industry. Doesn’t mean that waiting will be less uncomfortable. No one knows. Just not as likely if you wait.


(Simon) #32

Thanks Adam - that’s the rub I suppose, quoting the classic The Clash lyrics “Should I stay or should I go now?”
I’m going to definitely research the PPL options locally and pursue that as soon as possible, then use that experience to see how I feel about the potential 12-18 month wait. Will I increasingly feel grounded in my current role and seek to move on?
I understand the race for seniority, but feel having the family secure with zero debt would make time waiting for progression less of an issue. We’ll see…the stock market itself may decide the issue!

(Simon) #33

Thanks Tory,
I am soaking up as much information as possible from you, Adam, Chris and the other great members of this group - such an encouraging community.
I’m researching the best places to gain a Private Pilot Qual around Atlanta now and am both interested and intrigued about one company in particular - Falcon Aviation Academy.
I wonder if any of the forum members have any recent information about this school as there are some really conflicting posts on other boards from the last couple of years.
As well as offering standard courses to gain certifications in slow time they have their own accelerated program and seem to offer 100+ hours per month as a CFI…but the backbone of their operation seems to be training International students including a large slice from China. This is a very different dynamic from that I have read about ATP and may explain why their course is significantly cheaper - presuming they need to generate domestic CFIs to reinvest into training their international cohorts?
Anybody heard anything about this school? They seem to be affiliated with plenty of Regionals including Endeavor, SkyWest etc…
I understand if people do not wish to comment about individual flight training providers!

(Sergey Kireyev) #34

A friend of mine toured Falcon. He ended up going to ATP. I advise you do the due diligence beyond the adverts and pamphlets. I had three choices of schools, and chose ATP. I hear and see students from “other choices” on a daily basis. I am glad I am where I am.



30+ years ago ATP created the Career Pilot program and ever since there have been copycats popping up. I’m not familiar with Falcon and have no idea what type of product they’re turning out. What I do know is ATP had almost 600 pilots hired by airlines in the last 12mos alone. I’ve flown with many ATP grads and a fair amount of university program pilots but never once heard of Falcon? As for affiliates EVERY flight school in the country now has agreements with Regionals. The Regionals need bodies desperately and care little where they did their training (SkyWest in fact visited and recently set up an agreement with several mom and pop flight schools here in Hawaii within the last year). Not bashing Falcon but at that price folks should be lining up at the door. Do your research. Sometimes you get what you pay for.




I am no expert on Falcon’s program, but I did take a quick look at it. They are quoting prices using pretty low flight time. For example, on the PPL, they say the national average is 67 hours, but the Falcon average is 53 hours and they quote a price on that. 53 hours is really, really low. Maybe that is their average, but I find it hard that their school is 21% more efficient than every other flight school out there.

Furthermore, for all of their programs, the prices they quote are “elite rates”, which means that the full amount is paid up front. What is the refund policy if you decide to discontinue training?

As for teaching mostly international students, I would encourage you to seek out some of their current instructors and ask about that.

Adam is right, a flight school having an airline partnership is worthless, everybody has one and they really don’t mean anything. Getting to 1,500 hours is king and what gets somebody on at an airline, not some airline partnership.

I am glad that you are doing your due diligence and looking at many options, that is the best and only way to find the school that is best for you.



(Simon) #37

Checking back in to thank everyone again for their advice here, and in the other threads on the forum.

My family and I have been thinking long and hard about the best next steps to fulfilling this lifelong dream after having loved my first intro flight in a DA20 two weeks ago. I am now looking seriously at beginning with ATP around May next year, and am already deep into the PHAK prepping for my first theory exam and am digesting METARs and TAFs daily, and continuing to absorb aviation podcasts throughout my daily commute. My aim will be to have all theory exams passed with a high score prior to beginning the ATP course and to be as roundly formed of the aviation environment as possible.

I have a question though - We live in metro Atlanta, and have both PDK and LZU ATP locations pretty close to our home. Does anyone have any strong advice over either location for flight training?

I note that LZU is a larger site with 15 instructors, is outside of KATLs Class B airspace, and was a recipient of AOPAs Flight Training Experience award in 2017 and 2018, while PDK is closer to our home, but a smaller location, with currently 9 instructors and at a very busy GA airfield.

Grateful for feedback, although I will of course visit each location myself and schedule an Introductory Flight at one of the locations.

Thanks again to all of the mentors and current students who take the time to post here - you provide an invaluable source of advice and have my utmost respect and thanks. Cudos and safe flights.

(Sergey Kireyev) #38

I’d choose the site that’s easier to commute to from your home. ATP does a very thorough job at trying to keep the standard of instruction equal across the locations. AOPA awards are great but most of the instructors that were the reason for the award will be gone to the airlines by May anyway. So just check the locations out, and pick the place that feels right and that is easy to get to. Sometimes when you have a flight at zero dark thirty, that extra time you have to drive makes all the difference.



Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it.

As for locations, while fleet size and instructor size might be different between the two, the ratios should be the same. ATP tried very hard to standardize all locations, the experience really should be the same from one to the next. I would simply pick the one that is most convenient and not give it any thought beyond that.

I love your plan of having all of your writtens complete, that will put you at a huge advantage once you start the program.


(Jason Francis) #40

Good morning to all! I am 43 and in the same position as many in this thread. I have browsed the FAQs and read the bios of the mentors (thank you for sharing your experiences.) Mentor Adam, based on your story, I am sure I can get through the path, but is it cost effective for me? That is the big question, and to answer it I will probably spend alot of time making and analyzing financial spread sheets. So anyway, this is where I am…

I am in my 23rd year of a public safety career, from which I have earned a pension that grows every day I work. However, I want to leave the profession because I feel my own growth has all but stopped, and I will deeply regret not doing something else with my life if I do not reach out and do it now. (Call it mid-life crisis if you like!) I am in a great position with a 4 year degree and a graduate certificate, which is about 1/3 of a masters. I realize a masters is not needed for airlines, but I have always wanted to finish it at some point. If I were to leave my career tomorrow for ATP flight school, I would suffer extreme heartburn, but I am sure I could get through it. (I have completed about 10 hours of private flight time, but stopped due to cost at the local FBO.) The cost of the ATP program would either A. wipe out our savings, or B. create massive loan debt. If I wait about a year or two, I could have more savings on hand, eliminating the need for loans and having a softer cushion for a rainy day. I realize that would put me a year or two behind in seniority when I get to an airline, but it would also leave me with no debt.

So, I know this is an adult decision only I can make, and I will run all of the numbers to see if they fit into our life, but I would welcome any advice from the mentors as they see fit. Thank you in advance for your time!




Sounds like you did some good reading and have an understanding of the variables. Your call.


(Jason Francis) #42

Thank you Adam. At this age (43) I don’t expect to be a Captain in a major on the best routes before age 65, but where could I conservatively be in let’s say, 10 years from spring 2019? I will be 54 in spring 2029 with 10-11 strong years of earning potential left. FO in a major would be great if that’s conservatively attainable. If you can’t tell, I’m a conservatively minded person, and I will probably over analyze this major life decision! I just need some estimated salary figures to know my earning potential. Thanks again.



FO at a Major is not conservative. It’s possible but def not conservative. You need to understand that the Majors are not desperate and training pilots is expensive. If they hire a 20 or 30 something they can get 30-40yrs out of that pilot. There are quite a few mid-40yo pilots I know personally with much more experience and time than you have and they can’t get an interview specifically for that reason. Flying for a Major is the pinnacle of this industry and the truth is not everyone gets there. Not saying you won’t but again if “conservative” is your goal I wouldn’t count on it.